The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently released a Final Rule on Drug and Alcohol Testing and the State Driver’s License Agency (SDLA) Non-issuance or Downgrade of Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) or Commercial Learners Permit (CLP). The rule is effective as of November 8, 2021, and compliance is required as of November 18, 2024.
The purpose of this final rule is to improve highway safety by ensuring that CLP or CDL holders with drug and alcohol program violations do not operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) until they complete the return to duty (RTD) process and can lawfully resume driving. Currently, most SDLAs do not receive drug and alcohol program violation information about CDL, or CLP holders licensed in their State. Therefore, these SDLAs are unaware when a CMV operator is subject to the driving prohibition set forth in 49 CFR 382.501(a), and the CMV operator continues to hold a valid CDL or CLP despite the driving prohibition. The rule closes that knowledge gap by ensuring that all SDLAs are able to determine whether CMV drivers licensed in their State are subject to FMCSA’s CMV driving prohibition. The rule facilitates enforcement of the driving prohibition by requiring that SDLAs deny certain commercial licensing transactions and remove the commercial driving privileges of individuals who are prohibited from operating a CMV and performing other safety-sensitive functions, due to drug and alcohol program violations. By requiring SDLAs to downgrade the driver’s licensing status by removing the commercial driving privilege, the final rule will also permit all traffic safety enforcement officers to readily identify prohibited drivers by conducting a license check during a traffic stop or other roadside intervention.
Under the Final Rule there are two ways the SDLA will receive notification of the driver’s prohibited status: (1) The SDLA ‘‘pulls’’ the information from the Clearinghouse by conducting a required query prior to a specified commercial licensing transaction; and (2) FMCSA ‘‘pushes’’ the information to the SDLA whenever a drug or alcohol program violation is reported to the Clearinghouse for a CLP or CDL holder licensed in that State. FMCSA will also ‘‘push’’ a notification to the SDLA when the driver complies with RTD requirements and is no longer prohibited by FMCSA’s regulations from operating a CMV. In addition, if FMCSA determines that a driver was erroneously identified as prohibited, the Agency will notify the SDLA that the individual is not prohibited from operating a CMV; the SDLA must promptly reinstate the commercial driving privilege to the driver’s license and expunge the driving record accordingly.
The final rule does not establish specific downgrade or reinstatement procedures. All States currently have established procedures to downgrade the CDL or CLP of a driver whose medical certification has expired or otherwise been invalidated. The Agency anticipates that States will adapt their existing processes to remove the CLP or CDL credential from the license of any driver subject to the CMV driving prohibition, and to reinstate the commercial privilege following receipt of notification from FMCSA that the individual is no longer prohibited from driving a CMV (or was incorrectly identified as prohibited).
The full Final Rule may be accessed here: https://www.federalregister.gov/public-inspection/2021-21928/controlled-substances-and-alcohol-testing-state-drivers-licensing-agency-non-issuancedowngrade-of.
If you have any questions, contact Ronna Weber at ExecDir@NASDPTS.org.
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